The First Dozen Marvel (MCU) Films Ranked

With the release of Ant-Man, Phase Two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) films has concluded. Before Phase Three begins with Captain America: Civil War, now would be a good time to rank the twelve MCU films released so far.

1. The Avengers (2012) – As the culmination of years of careful seeding by previous MCU films The Avengers was a bold, energetic triumph. Director Joss Whedon accomplished the impossible by bringing together completely different characters and molding them into a superhero team just like in the comic books.

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As the most successful superhero film of all time, The Avengers excited numerous viewers and changed the landscape of superhero films. Before this film, the usual superhero films operated in their own realities without any indication of a rich universe as seen in comic books. But The Avengers embraced the richness of its comic book lore and it paid off. Now, shared cinematic universes are the rage. However, The Avengers is the best of the MCU films because it was so energetic, witty, and snappy, and had the novelty of our favorite heroes meeting for the first time. It all led to one of the most exciting finales presented on film that still reverberates with viewers.

2. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) – Marvel Studios showed they were willing to take a chance with this quirky and exciting space adventure yarn. Who would’ve imagined that a sci-fi movie about a bumbling space pirate, violent green aliens, a foul-mouthed raccoon and a walking tree would strike a chord with audiences?

gotg

Technically, Guardians of the Galaxy isn’t a superhero film, but this demonstrates how this MCU entry is quite different from its standard superhero repertoire. What made it special wasn’t just the premise, beautiful visuals or production design, but a toe-tapping soundtrack that ingeniously used ’70s pop songs. It was a unique signature for this space opera tale about a group of space losers who banded together to save the galaxy. Chris Pratt became a star thanks to his silly, but good-hearted role as Star-Lord, the self-proclaimed legendary outlaw.

3. Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) – The best MCU solo superhero film and one of the greatest superhero films ever made. More importantly, this was arguably the most volatile entry in the MCU because by the time the film ended, the cinematic universe was forever changed by the film’s events.

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Chris Evans as Captain America/Steve Rogers has demonstrated how he has grown in stature in these films. As a man out of time, Steve Rogers faced his greatest threats from a former friend (one of the deadliest and most frightening supervillains on film) and a shocking global conspiracy that rocked the MCU to its roots. Adding to the film’s specialness were a tightly written script, well-executed and riveting fight scenes and terrific performances from the cast.

4. Ant-Man (2015) – The final Phase Two film is known for its numerous behind-the-scenes hurdles where the original director quit after having developed the film for years. Yet, in spite of that and the titular character’s obscurity, Ant-Man was an unexpectedly great superhero film that’s full of panache.

antman in your face

As one of the more humorous MCU films, Ant-Man quickly won over viewers with its outlandish premise: a man who can shrink and communicate with ants. Wrapped around that was a swift-paced heist story that deftly integrated itself into the larger MCU in a natural way that eluded other films that attempted this. Adding to the film’s enjoyment were many winning performances, fantastic special effects and unlike other MCU films, Ant-Man was able to deliver an astonishing final act that helped pave the future for the MCU.

5. Thor (2011) – What sets Marvel Studios apart with their MCU films is its willingness to remain faithful to the comic book source material. At the same time, Marvel Studios has the ability to make organic changes and updates to its characters and situations. Thor is a perfect example. The film wisely eschewed its magic-based comic book roots that Thor and his ilk were actual gods and cleverly used science fiction tropes instead.

THOR

Thor followed the winning formula of MCU films by having an egotistical, flawed character learn some humility and become a hero. Thanks to director Kenneth Branagh, Thor also had a sense of grandeur that evoked a Shakespearean family drama. In this case, that involved otherworldly aliens mistaken for gods. It was also noted for its humorous fish-out-of-water scenario and Tom Hiddleston’s star-making performance as Loki, the MCU’s best villain.

6. Iron Man (2008) – The one that started the MCU phenomenon still holds up as a well-made origin story. Robert Downey, Jr. shined as he made a personal and professional comeback in the role of a lifetime. His trend-setting Tony Stark/Iron Man was a self-centered narcissist who learned to become something more.

iron man flying

The first part of Iron Man was engrossing, particularly during the moments when Tony Stark first faced his mortality and was forced to construct a crude armored suit. However, the film faltered a bit in the second half. The pace dragged as we waited for him to construct a proper Iron Man suit. Things weren’t helped by the final battle that looked like something out of the Transformers and was just as cartoony. But Iron Man’s successful formula set the tone for the rest of the MCU. Continue reading

Iron Man’s Best Armor

iron gallery

This month marks the 50th birthday of everyone’s favorite Armored Avenger, Iron Man. One thing that made Shellhead so unique among the superheroes is that until recent years he was one of the very few superheroes to sport a new look.

Often, the change in suits was necessary since Iron Man faced constantly changing threats and situations. This upgrading of his armor is one way to showcase how Iron Man keeps up with technology and the times. It is hard to imagine Iron Man being the popular hero that he is if he still wore that clunky Mark II armor seen in the early Avengers comic books.

There are many variations of his armor, while some were best left forgotten, others were very captivating and quite cool.

stealthStealth Armor Mark I (Iron Man # 152, Vol. 1)

One thing that stood out about this armor was its jet black color scheme, which lent itself to its stealth capabilities that made Iron Man electronically invisible.

Hydro Armor (Iron Man # 218, Vol. 1)

As its name suggests, this particular oversized armor was used for underwater missions, namely deep-sea salvages.

Hulkbuster Armor (Iron Man # 304, Vol. 4)Hulk buster

This large-framed armor boosted Iron Man’s strength to allow hand-to-hand fighting with the powerful Hulk. This concept led to other variants like the Asgardian Armor for fighting Thor and Spider-Man’s Iron Spider suit seen in the Civil War mini-series. The Hulkbuster armor apparently makes an appearance in the new Iron Man 3 movie as seen at the end of the latest trailer.

 

extemisExtremis Armor (Iron Man #5, Vol. 4) & Bleeding Edge Armor (Iron Man # 25, Vol. 5)

What made this armor so radically different was that it was actually part of its wearer Tony Stark. He was critically ill and injected himself with a techno organic virus, which bonded the suit to his body. Stark was able to store the armor in his bones and controlled it with his brain impulses. For all intents and purposes, this armor turned Stark into a cyborg, a true Iron Man. This wasn’t a state-of-the art armor, it was simply futuristic. The next stage of his armor was the so-called Bleeding Edge Armor. However, Stark had the armor surgically removed later on.  

Mark I (Tales Of Suspense # 39) tales of suspense

Sometimes retro is the way to go. Yes, its clunky and not aesthetically pleasing but it did a most important thing. It was the first armor to save Tony Stark’s life. Using raw materials and under life-or-death pressure, Stark demonstrated his genius with this creation. While funky in its inelegant, steampunk-like design, the armor would be replaced in the next issue of Tales Of Suspense by a more advanced golden armor. The basic grey look made a comeback of sorts in Iron Man # 191 (Vol. I) when Stark was forced to cobble together a makeshift suit when his regular armor wasn’t available to him.

classic armorMark III (Tales Of Suspense # 48)

The iconic, modern look of the red-and-gold armor was introduced in this issue and it set the design template for all future Iron Man armor. The Mark III differed from the first two designs in that it had a sleeker look and was more versatile. The design became a mainstay for Iron Man’s look (except for bulky alternates like the Hulkbuster or his Space Armor). The armor looked even sleeker and more formidable with the debut of the more modern Mark IV (Tales Of Suspense # 66) with the famous repulsor rays and the Mark V (Iron Man # 85, Vol. 1). This two-color, dynamic motif culminated, with his current Black and Gold Armor (Iron Man # 1, Vol. 5), which is made of a fluidic “smart metal”, mentally controlled by Stark and is a testbed for new tech.

black and gold

*Note: The above art was done by John Romita, Jr., Bob Layton, Kevin Hopgood, Adi Granov, Jack Kirby, Don Heck and Greg Land

Waldermann Rivera

Special thanks to GEO